Monday, July 13, 2015

Reader Report: Heaven is Here

Heaven is Here: An Incredible Story of Hope, Triumph, and Everyday Joy

Stephanie Nielson began sharing her life in 2005 on, drawing readers in with her warmth and candor. She quickly attracted a loyal following that was captivated by the upbeat mother happily raising her young children, madly in love with her husband, Christian (Mr. Nielson to her readers), and filled with gratitude for her blessed life. However, everything changed in an instant on a sunny day in August 2008, when Stephanie and Christian were in a horrific plane crash. Christian was burned over 40 percent of his body, and Stephanie was on the brink of death, with burns over 80 percent of her body. She would remain in a coma for four months.In the aftermath of this harrowing tragedy, Stephanie maintained a stunning sense of humor, optimism, and resilience. She has since shared this strength of spirit with others through her blog, in magazine features, and on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Now, in this moving memoir, Stephanie tells the full, extraordinary story of her unlikely recovery and the incredible love behind it--from a riveting account of the crash to all that followed in its wake. With vivid detail, Stephanie recounts her emotional and physical journey, from her first painful days after awakening from the coma to the first time she saw her face in the mirror, the first kiss she shared with Christian after the accident, and the first time she talked to her children after their long separation. She also reflects back on life before the accident, to her happy childhood as one of nine siblings, her close-knit community and strong Mormon faith, and her fairy-tale love story, all of which became her foundation of strength as she rebuilt her life. What emerges from the wreckage of a tragic accident is a unique perspective on joy, beauty, and overcoming adversity that is as gripping as it is inspirational. Heaven Is Here is a poignant reminder of how faith and family, love and community can bolster us, sustain us, and quite literally, in some cases, save us.

Stephanie Nielson
Stephanie Nielson was born and raised in Provo, Utah. She is the author of, a popular blog about her life as a wife, mother, and Mormon. Stephanie lives in Provo with her husband and children.

Publishing Info:
Hyperion, 2012.

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"Let the light of your faith inspire other people. . . . Share your hope."
Stephanie Nielson, p 143

The title says this book is a story of hope, triumph, and joy. That is is.

Stephanie shows us triumph, by expressing in full detail the difficulty of her accident and early recovery. She reveals how emotionally taxing the accident was by painting a beautiful picture of her life before. 

Memories of childhood, and her dreams for a big family. Stories of how her older siblings played with her, and how much she enjoyed all eight of them. She tells of how her faith strengthened her as a child. She tells of meeting her husband, and how she knew right away that she would marry him. She tells stories of their newlywed years, and when they discovered they were having their first child. She tells about their family growing, and the joy of her husband fulfilling his dream in learning to fly a plane. She says her life was perfect. A stay-at-home mom with four kids at 27 years old, with a great husband.

I loved this part, because it seemed like I had all the same dreams she had - a loving husband, a house full of kids. 

Then the accident. There was a plane crash. Stephanie was agonizingly pained as flames engulfed her whole body. By the time she was rescued, burns covered 80 percent of her body. She didn't see her family for three months. And when she did, she realized how much they were doing for her, and she felt like a burden. She was in pain, she was helpless, she didn't look like herself.

Stephanie tells us the story of her recovery - how goals were to lift one arm, then both arms at the same time. Then touch her two index fingers to each other. Then standing, then walking. Using the bathroom by herself, feeding herself, buttoning a coat. Though she only started taking baby steps four months after the accident, she made a goal to hike up Y Mountain on the anniversary of the accident. And she did. She told of the transformation of her children - from the first visit when her daughters couldn't look at her and her son didn't remember her, to when he started crying for her at night and her daughters snuggled up next to her to read a story.

Here are some of my favorite parts:

  • Once, while Stephanie was still in a coma, her condition took a terrible turn for the worse. Her mother took this as the doctors saying it was time for goodbyes. "My father asked Jesse to give me a priesthood blessing. The rest of the family bowed their heads and listened as Jesse put his hands on me. As he spoke, sure that my spirit could hear, he felt impressed to offer me a choice, essentially between heaven and earth. It was time to decide, he said, if I was going to go or stay. If I chose to stay in my body, he blessed me with a full recovery, a rich and happy life, and strength and patience as I healed. If I wanted to, though, he knew I could leave my mortal body behind. . . . As my mother told me about Jesse's blessing, a whisper of memory fluttered inside me. . . . I had made a choice. I was away from my body, in that beautiful place with Nana, and I was asked to choose. I could stay there if I wanted, and be released from my physical body, or I could go back to earth. . . . I was told that if I went back to Earth, my life would have meaning and purpose beyond what I could comprehend, but I was reminded again that it would be difficult. I asked what I could do to make it easier. Let the light of your faith inspire other people, I was told. Share your hope" (p 142-3).
  • Shortly before the one-year anniversary of the accident, Stephanie and her husband had the chance to talk with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Stephanie remembers part of that interaction like this: "As we talked he told me to be proud of my scars. 'We look for Christ's scars because they are evidence of what He did for us. They'll be the first things He shows us when we see Him again. Your scars tell a story, too. Although they may not make you feel attractive, they are a witness of a miracle, that God blessed you to live, and that you have accomplished very difficult things'" (p 293). 

This book truly is a magnificent representation of the strength we can have with our Heavenly Father's help through any trial.

"My scars are a witness of a miracle."
Stephanie Nielson, p 294

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